Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: US seeks death penalty for bomb suspect

DZHOKHAR A TSARNAEV

Call for 20yr-old to face the ultimate penalty was expected, but it sets scene for 'wrenching' trial

LAST UPDATED AT 10:18 ON Fri 31 Jan 2014

PROSECUTORS will seek the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 20-year-old accused of planting the Boston Marathon bombs that killed three people and injured more than 260 others.

The decision of Boston's attorney general to seek the ultimate penalty was widely expected because 17 of the 30 federal charges Tsarnaev is facing carry the possibility of the death penalty. Even so, the decision "instantly raised the stakes in what could be one of the most wrenching trials the city has ever seen", says the New York Post.

"The nature of the conduct at issue and the resultant harm compel this decision," attorney general Eric Holder said in a statement.

Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him. A trial date has yet to be set.

The Post points out that Massachusetts abolished its state death penalty in 1984, and "repeated efforts to reinstate it have failed". But Tsarnaev is the third person in the state to be charged under the federal death penalty.

Since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988, 70 death penalty sentences have been imposed, but only three people have been executed including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in 2001. Eight people have been taken off death row by a judicial or executive action, while 59 people remain on death row.

A poll conducted by the Boston Globe in September last year found that 57 per cent of the city's residents want Tsarnaev to be sentenced to life without parole. A third of those surveyed want him to receive the death penalty. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.